Saturday, June 02, 2018

Non-cheering cheerleaders in the NHL are an embarrassing anachronism

I suppose it should come as no surprise, but it was nevertheless quite illuminating (and not a little depressing) to read that many National Football League (NFL) clubs employ non-cheering cheerleaders to just shmooze with the crowd, in order to "enhance" their event experience, as well as to hand out prizes, encourage audience participation, etc.
Some clubs describe them as "hostesses" or "ambassadors", although most just call them "cheerleaders" or "appearance-only cheerleaders", and deliberately try to conflate them with the real thing, as though they are a guilty secret, which is not far from the truth. These scantily-clad young females dress like the real cheerleaders, but are not required to have any dancing or gymnastics experience (although some application forms do call for specific body measurements). Instead, they are merely there to interact with the testosterone-laden and often alcohol-soaked crowd, in much the same way as Hooters waitresses are not really there to serve your drinks efficiently and politely. They are essentially sexualized saleswomen. In particular, they are considered a "perk" of the elite corporate and luxury suites, which provide football clubs with a substantial guaranteed income.
Predictably enough, these young women, who are generally paid minimum wage for their services, are constantly subjected to sexual harassment and groping. In the changed political climate of the #MeToo era, some women (both bona fide cheerleaders and non-cheering "alternative" cheerleaders) are starting to speak out and filing legal complaints for sexual harassment, although many are hampered by confidentiality agreements. And, because of #MeToo, organizations are having to be at least seen to be listening.
Formula One car racing has recently decided to stop using so-called "grid girls", and many professional cycling races are stopping this use of "podium girls". In both cases, organizations say that such things are at odds with modern-day societal norms. In football, however - proud last bastion of traditional, heterosexual, macho attitudes - the trend appears to be going in the other direction, and clubs are largely unapologetic for their cheerleading practices. Let's see whether a few adverse legal cases changes that.

No comments: